Do You Have a Not To-Do List?

Everyone’s heard of the “To-Do List.” Whether you use Outlook, Gmail, a dedicated task manager like Nozbe (which I use), or the back of a paper napkin, the idea is the same: you list in priority order the items you want to get done. Simple. Elegant. Powerful.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/EricHood, Image #7206932

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/EricHood

Until you have more items that you can physically get done.

Enter the “Not To-Do List.” I stumbled across this idea several years ago, and I keep coming back to it. The idea is to list all the activities you are intentionally going to stop doing for the sake of greater productivity.

Here’s why this is important. As people succeed at work, they attract more and more assignments. It’s like they become a task magnet. “Give it to Laurie,” they say. “She’ll to a great job!” The problem is that people are a finite resource. I don’t care how good you are, you only have so much energy and so much time. It’s true for me. It’s true for you.

The only way for these super-productive people to continue to grow professionally without going crazy is periodically to decide what they are not going to do.

This is particularly important for people who have just been promoted to a new job. That’s when you really face the pressure to perform and it’s the most difficult to say, “no.”

But you must say “no” if you are going to say “yes” to the things that really count—both in your job and in your life.

Keep in mind that the great risk for people in a new job is that they continue to do their old job. Read that sentence again.

“Now why would they do that?” you ask? Probably because it is familiar. And probably because their supervisor didn’t tell them they had to stop doing it. Being aware of this dynamic is half of the battle.

The other half of the battle is to sit down and literally create a Not To-Do List. Here’s how:

  1. Find a quiet place where you can think.
  2. Look at your previous month’s calendar activities. Write down anything you’re not sure really fits your current job description.
  3. Look at your upcoming appointments for the next month. Again, write down things that are questionable in terms of your current job description.
  4. Go through your to-do list(s) and do the same thing. Write down the questionable activities.
  5. You should now have a list of “not to-do candidates.” Good work! You’re almost done.
  6. Now go through the list and put an asterisk beside each item that is significant enough that you want to add it to your official “Not To-Do List.”

Once you get your list done, share it with your assistant (if you have one) and your colleagues. If you can enlist their help (no pun intended), they can assist you in screening out activities and tasks that no longer belong on your to-do list.

It’s especially important to discuss your Not To-Do List with your boss. You need her buy-in so she doesn’t keep assigning you work that both of you have decided you should no longer be doing.

Just to stimulate your own thinking, here is a the Not To-Do list I prepared back when I became CEO:

Not To-Do List
  1. Review book proposals or manuscripts for possible publication
  2. Write deal memos
  3. Negotiate contracts with agents or authors
  4. Meet prospective new authors unless they have significant brand potential
  5. Attend publishing meetings unless the topic is vision or strategy
  6. Write marketing plans
  7. Travel by car to other cities unless they are less than one hour a way
  8. Check my own voice mail
  9. Read unfiltered e-mail
  10. Answer my own phone
  11. Respond to (or feel the need to respond to) unsolicited sales pitches or proposals of any kind
  12. Attend process review meetings unless there’s a compelling reason for me to be there
  13. Attend trade shows for more than two days
  14. Serve as a director on more than two outside boards

Even if you haven’t just been promoted, you will find the Not To-Do List helpful. This is especially true if you want to maintain some semblance of balance in your life.

If you don’t periodically take a machete to your to-do list, it will eventually grow over everything and strangle you! I know of no better way to “buy time” than with this simple tool.

Question: What do you need to stop doing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.lionstand.com Jamie (Lionstand)

    Very timely Michael,

    Right after I woke this morning, I put on my t0-do-list to write out a time block schedule for myself with the emphasis being staying focused on the important things and eliminating everything else.

    Thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Jamie,

      I agree, I need to look at this post every morning!

      jim

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    Wow!!  That deserves some thought! I’ve done a pretty good job of paring down and focusing only on God-priorities. I did this a few years ago when the Holy Spirit prompted me to list the top three priorities in my life. (More than three made the list…I was doing wayyyy too much). Then the Spirit said, “Keep the top three. everything else must go.” Whew! That was hard. I had to give up my position as Women’s Ministry Director for my church and some other things. Guess what! Prioritizing and weeding out was the best thing I ever did.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing your experience here. I need to do this too. One of the “Time Demons” I mentioned earlier is the “I’m so important” actions that I chase. God can use anyone to do the things I think I should be doing.

      I am learning that only I can do the things that He wants me to do.  Not because only I Can do them but because He only wants me to do them for His purpose.

      “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:10

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        Great verse. Thank you for sharing.

        Jim

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Leah,

      one of the things that I tell my new leaders that have trouble being productive is what can you stop doing! It is amazing when they stop doing things and delegate, how productive they become.

      JIm

  • http://www.wonderwomanimnot.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    I wish I would have seen this post a year ago when I was promoted to my current position.  The first year was spent trying to do my new job and my old job while I looked for a replacement to fill the position I left (note – if you aren’t excited about a candidate don’t hire them.  It will save you a lot of heart ache in the long run.) After a year I’ve finally gotten rid of everything that doesn’t belong in my current position.

    My situation was a little difficult because I was promoted within the same department leaving me with an empty manager spot as well as a brand new manager at a time when the cost market was going haywire and my staff was being overworked themselves.  However, saying yes to everything will not benefit your employer in the long run.  An employee that is overworked and overwhelmed is not being as productive as they should be.  In hindsight, I would have sat down and created a temporary do not do list as well as a list of tasks that could have temporarily been outsourced to other departments.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I have a plan for my next promotion!

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a great idea Michael. Ido not have a written list like this. I’ll put that on the to do list.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great idea, Michael. I really need to do this on my new job. It’s amazing how people take it for granted when you get a different job, that you still will do all your old job duties along with your new tasks. This is a great way to delegate those jobs to others.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      John,

      you are correct and with all of the downsizing, this is happening more and more everyday.

      Jim

  • http://theblakefirm.com Austin Business Lawyer

    In my profession, I’ve found that having a not-to-do list is really important not only to maximize productivity, but also to prevent clients from taking advantage of you.  I like to provide a free initial consultation to folks to evaluate their facts and determine whether and how I might help them.  Many people don’t recognize that a free consultation is a big gift of a lawyer’s time, and they try to take advantage of the lawyer by asking him to go far beyond the realm of initial consultation and intake.  In my experience, it’s really critical to have a not-to-do list to keep yourself within the bounds of what you intend to give and to tell folks that if they want more, they have to sign on as a client.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-Barry/615519216 Rick Barry

    I’ve found that other people (both at work and at church) are willing to keep giving you jobs as long as you’re willing to keep saying, “Yes.” Learning to say a courteous “No” can sometimes safeguard one’s sanity. In addition, it forces an opportunity for some other, less experienced, person to step up to the plate and learn how to swing.

    • Brad Nease

      Rick,

      I agree!  As long as you’re accepting new tasks, someone will be willing to provide more.  Knowing your job description/position and its specific responsibilities is very important, whether at work or church or . . .  As a boss/supervisor, you must also be aware as you promote someone or move them to a new position, that you’re not loading them with their old responsibilities as they assume new ones.

      Brad

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy
      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        This is an even better list! Thanks.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      You become the “Yes” person.  Sometimes this can also have a negative effect on the rest of your team, too, because no one else learns to do some of the pivotal tasks.

  • http://twitter.com/TesTeq TesTeq

    I must tell the truth:

    In my opinion the “not-to-do” list is the worst idea in the whole personal development area.

    1) Human mind has difficulty in recognizing “not” so the list reminds me about the things while it should help me to forget about them.

    2) “Not doing” is not effective – “doing something else instead”  is the right way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is true if it were something you focused on every day. I wouldn’t want to get up everyday, for example, and clean the garage. But occasionally, it is necessary. You have to clear the clutter, so you can focus on “doing something else instead.”

      • Mraithel

        If you find there are several items that are consistently getting in the way – I think a “not-to-do” is helpful.

        “Don’t check twitter till lunch – or end of day” is on mine, as it would easily steal 45 minutes from me each morning. I was checking in the morning to try and keep tabs on new developments, but by doing this at the start of the day it would surprisingly add things to my “to-do” that weren’t essential – articles to read etc.

    • http://idoneousurl.tumblr.com/ VerecundAmaranth

      Sure,  on a fundamental level “I oppose war” is not resolved as quickly or easily as “I support peace”  by our human minds with difficulty processing and acting upon negatives. But, the point of the article – a “not-to-do-list”, even if itemized using affirmative statements, is to redirect our focus upon what we ought be doing by recognizing where our failures lay. “I should stop wasting time” – if I don’t recognize am doing it, or even am in denial, can I pursue a solution? That’s how I understood the article.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy
      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        That’s a great post, Jim. I had not seen it before. Thanks.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        That’s a good list, Jim.

  • http://www.melaniebolke.com Melanie Bolke

    Why do I keep forgetting this lesson! Just because someone asks for something, it doesn’t mean that my automated response should be “yes”. 

    Just last week I made a commitment to a client that I have regretted nearly every day since.  I told myself that “next time” I won’t make the same mistake. 

    You’ve convinced me to create a list of things that I’m not doing anymore.  If a request comes in that’s on that list, I can simply say: “I’m sorry, but I’m no longer doing xyz activity anymore. Here’s a resource that may help.” 

    I especially like and appreciate the list you included when you became CEO – really helps me think about what needs to go on my list.  

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Joe Lalonde

    I like the idea of the “Not-to-do” list. So often we get our lives cluttered with things we shouldn’t be doing and losing our focus on things that we should be doing instead.

  • http://billrice.com Bill Rice

    Boy, I need to add more to this list. It’s something I have been think about lately.

    I run a small digital marketing firm, which is growing rapidly and bringing on large clients with big expectations.I need to stop “doing the work” and start leading and training the talent I have on the team.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is always such a challenge with growth!

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Mike, one of the biggest barriers I see to personal growth is when people take on a new action step, but they don’t intentionally take something else off their plate.  We all have just 24 hours in a day.  I used all 24 of of them yesterday, so if I want to successfully do something new today I’ve got to stop doing something else I’m currently doing.

    I blogged about this a while back in a post titled Trading Up - http://ow.ly/65lwP

    The idea of creating a NOT To Do list is a great way to help keep from picking back up something we’ve already said we’re going to let go of. 

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    My list would definitely have to include things that I tend to gravitate toward because of my personality but don’t have any business doing… UNTIL I have the time to do. Sometimes I’m my own obstacle to productivity. (Romans 7:15)  :)

  • http://www.barbaraparentini.com Barbara Parentini

    Thanks for this post, Mike. I can get caught up in a labyrinth of emails and online activities that steal valuable time I need for writing and creating. I’m going to create my list today!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Suggzy Steve Suggs

    We were thinking of the same things this morning. Thank you for writing something great I could forward to my salespeople followers. 

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  • Jack Lynady

    Great read Michael. One thing that’s helped me is knowing the difference between a competence, a concern, and a compelling. We could say “yes” to many things that we are competent at but then we may have less energy for those few things that truly compel us. I just wrote a post on this yesterday.

  • Mechelle

    Procrastinating..

  • PamelaVMason

    Hi Michael! I was   “Laurie,” but I am learning the power of ‘No.’  That’s a word we women have difficulty with – from work to home to our kids’ teams, we’re always available to do anything asked of us, until one day we wake up to discover we’ve lost ourselves, our own interests, and sometimes our identities and marriages. 
    People don’t like it when I answer with ‘no,’ but my husband loves it. I call it guarding my family time and marriage  and career goals.  
    I am going to commit the Not To Do list to paper. That is a tangible tool for me to refer to when another tempting offer comes along to distract me from my goals. Thanks! 

    • Momarian

      Pamela, you are so right!  Not doing for my kids what they can do for themselves is starting to grow fruit. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I know many women who struggle with this. Good for you by putting this in the context of what you are able to say “yes” to.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Pam,

      a freelance not to do list posting.  http://freelanceswitch.com/productivity/whats-on-your-not-do-list/

  • http://twitter.com/mgdobishinsky Michael Dobishinsky

    Great advice! I’ve thought of something similiar. My to-do list has two tiers, the top is the list of must do projects, the bottom has the can-wait projects. I start at the top and then work my way toward the bottom. If I can’t do everything, that’s okay as long as I got the most important things done first.
    ~ Michael
    http://www.thecolorofsound.edublogs.org

  • Casey

    LOVE THIS!  This is what I talk about a lot in my business, QuitToGrowRich.com.  I call it a Quit List!  What do you need to QUIT?!  Great post.  Thank you!
    ~Casey Sollock

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Thank you for the link.

      Jim

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    I especially appreciate the trade show 2-day rule. I’ve been to a few where I’ve stayed the whole time and regretted it. Better to schedule my meetings in a short period of time… Thanks, Mike, another valuable post.

  • http://www.adonislenzy.com Adonis Lenzy

    Great post Michael,

    I sooooo needed that.  Definitely going to take time today to start the process of implementing this.

  • http://www.godspeakstoday.net Sandy@Godspeakstoday

    I teach this same concept to women in speaking engagements and on my blog.  Even stay-at-home moms need to know what they can prayerfully neglect for a season (or forever!).  I call it a “To Don’t List”

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me of a quote by Molly McPherson:
    “Lord, I don’t want to carry burdens others make for me, nor burdens the Devil makes for me, nor burdens the Church wants to put on me, nor burdens from myself. But I do want to carry the burdens You make for me”Thank you for the post!

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Great quote. I will add it to my note list. Thank you for sharing.

      Jim

  • Anonymous

    Great list Michael :)    My mantra for what not to do came from John Braine’s (“Room at the Top” author) book “How to Write a Novel”.  He said “Never write letters to the editor.”  So anytime I’m thinking of doing something questionable, I ask myself whether it’s pretty much just “writing letters to the editor.”

  • http://lorenafeliz.wordpress.com Lorena Féliz

    I understand that you must be a busy man. I wonder, though, where does your blog/webpage fall into all of this? As little time as you want to spend on it, blogging does take time. How much of a priority is it for you?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It is my #1 work priority. Everything else—speaking, books, consulting, my platform—flows from this.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        Michael, have you ever written a post about what your goals for your blog are?  I seem to recall somewhere in the last month or so that you hope to get to 500,000 page views per month by the end of the year.  Have you accomplished that?  What are some of the other blogging goals you have for this year?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          No, I have not written a post about that. I am currently at 304,440 visitors a month (as of this morning) and growing at about 25% a month. My goal is to get to 500,000 by calendar year-end. Thanks.

  • Bekah Flaming

    I”m sharing this with my boss! He’s always way behind in his emails and I think he needs a way to remember what he’s supposed to hand off to me. He needs to purposefully decide what that is too and then be able to add to the “not to do” list.

    thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. This is the key—knowing what you are being paid to do. The value he adds is doing things other than processing his inbox. The value you add is precisely that. When this division of labor is in place, everyone is more efficient.

  • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

    This really connected with me. About two months after I started my current job I took on half the job that was done by someone else who left the company unexpectedly.  I had the skills to do the job and wanted to be helpful in my new position, but it was too much.  Taking on the extra responsibility meant that some things got pushed out.

  • Kevin Mackie

    Hi Michael – this is great stuff!

    Knowing and committing to do this is difficult, but once you start, it’s fairly straightforward.  The really hard part is setting these boundaries with your boss and peers.  How do you do that?

    Cheers,
    Kevin

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would start by simply having a conversation about expectations and what is the best and highest use of you.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Just had to add another comment as something interesting happened while at lunch. I was listening to the Catalyst podcast and they had a segment with Jim Collins, of Good To Great fame, on the show. He was speaking on the exact same topic. I think this might be confirmation for me to make one up.

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    Shedding the old skin and putting the new one is always a challenge. It also requires mindful reflection and conscious effort. Besides just saying no to the “old,” I think we also need a filter to help us decide what to say no to. I use my personal Purpose Statement to filter requests for volunteer work. I am a big magnet for this (fortunately and unfortunately). Having this filter helps me focus on doing not just a lot of good things but the best thing that is my calling at the moment.

  • http://www.wol.ca/staff/lyons Charlie Lyons

    Michael, this is all well and good for those who are able to have someone else check their voice mail, screen their calls and filter their e-mails. What say you to those of us who are the ones doing the checking, screening and filtering for other people? Am I believing a lie if I say I have little say in what I do or do not do? I mentioned last week (I think) that I’m trying to implement more personal leadership endeavours (a la Covey, Merrill, Ferriss, etc.) but I find it difficult to translate what I’m reading into the everyday mundane of a lowly administrative assistant such as myself. Thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Things that might not be on someone else’s to-do list may well be on yours. That “division of labor” is what makes the world go round. The real question is whether or not you are fulfilled in doing those things. I pay someone to do those things now who feels genuinely called to do them.

      • http://www.wol.ca/staff/lyons Charlie Lyons

        Thank you for your thoughtful response, Michael. I appreciate your insight and I wholeheartedly concur with your “makes the world go round” comment. At some point perhaps providence will open the doors for me to see things the other way around, with me being the one delegating instead of being delegated to. At some point, I think I’d like to be the one above the trees instead of the one hacking through the jungle. Above all, though, my intent is faithfulness and excellence.

        Thanks again for your comments.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely a great practice. I have a “Just Stop It” list. These are actions that I have identified over the years as Time Demons that eat up the most valuable resource any of us has, our time. By time I mean my “now”. All I can really control is my actions now. Planning and prioritizing is the tool that helps you act in your present circumstances. Having a list of actions (or non-actions) that impede my productivity has helped me to gain a more realistic perspective on how I have spent my time. It also removes excuses that can disguise why my productivity suffers. The power behind your concept is self disciple and taking responsibility for my actions.

    A good motto is : Action not intention determine destination

    Great post and effective advice,

    David Mount
    http://coretrainingsolutions.net

  • Mraithel

    I find the best way to keep my self on point is to not do anything that isn’t on my to do list.

    Simple things like an impromptu break to check twitter, facebook, email etc can be slippery slope that will creep away your day if you are not mindful.

    So I’ll throw a 15 minute social media checkup reminder on the to-do if it really is an essential part of that day’s tasks.

    And today, I made a note to check up on the latest blog news… including this one./This may be a bit extreme, but I find it incredibly helpful during busy weeks with lots “to-do”.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Good idea. Here is a post on productivity that may help. http://www.productivitybits.com/how-not-to-overload-your-to-do-list

      Jim

  • http://www.cmoe.com/leadership-development.htm Susan

    This actually make sense. It helps you narrow down your focus on the things you SHOULD be doing and the things that are a complete waste of time and effort. Too many people focus on their to-do list without setting limits that they end up doing everything they think they should be doing.

  • http://twitter.com/AdamRDuguay Adam Duguay

    Once you’ve identified things you need to stop doing, how do you convince your boss you should stop doing the things they are asking you to do?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Obviously, your boss has hired you to do certain things. You have to either change his opinion or yours.

  • http://www.shopmychurch.com Jason Stambaugh

    I’m not sure about this one. Interesting concept. I do see its potential to clear off the to do list and limit the ocean of things you could be doing. 

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Also, saying “No” to some of the things you’re currently doing makes room for some things that you COULD be doing, if you had time.

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric

    I think this is a great idea. I unknowingly did this last week. I have a new assistant at work and my job description has changed quite a bit over the past year. I had a list of items on my list to do and I realized that many of them I probably shouldn’t be doing. They were taking away time from things that I should be spending my time on such as networking and recruiting. The other good thing is that my new assistant is more detailed and organized that I am. She can run circles around me when it comes to detailing and planning events so I quit wasting needless energy on those things when she can do it blindfolded!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GFQDQJOXSJMSB36DQKNWCHX7AI Michelle

    I like this and live this but without it being written.  I believe I need to change that as it deserves keystrokes or ink.  It’s like in baseball when the outfielders call the ball, then we know who’s not getting it and that allows others to work doing the other things that need to be done (support the guy catching the ball or staying out of his way).  Too many times the same task may sit on several people’s lists but only belongs on one.  Why are we hesitant to declare what is not ours?  Did job insecurity or downsizing threats to this too us or are we just poor type A personalities who don’t understand the big picture of productivity?

    Thanks Michael for the mental paradox in thinking!

  • http://breakupcandy.com Catherine

    Thanks for this fantastic post, Michael.  I love it and I will start working on mine right away.  I can get caught up with tasks that I don’t see how I can delegate and these practical suggestions are really helpful!

    Cheers,
    Catherine

  • Anonymous

    This is good stuff. I believe one of the biggest components of living intentionally and being successful is the ability to say no to things/requests/people/tasks etc. Time management for me is all about consciously saying No to certain things in order to make room for others. No without apology or guilt. No to myself even, an exercise in self-discipline. I love the idea of making a list. However rules were made to be broken :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K57Y7SDDTZ4XA7XZVJZHE3F7EM BJ

    I need to cut out some of my e-mails and stick to just the ones that will help me to grow in my writing and posts such as yours to help me to get organized.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K57Y7SDDTZ4XA7XZVJZHE3F7EM BJ

    I need to cut out all the extra e-mails and stick the ones that help me most in what I need to help me accomplish what I need to. Your post help me to become organized.

  • http://tonychung.ca tonychung

    Michael: Cool. I just read a chapter in Killer Web Content today that says, Get yourself a “stop doing” list. The eventual purpose is to put yourself on a path to discovering where to focus your energy to achieve the most success and fulfillment.

  • http://www.irunurun.com Travis Dommert

    Great suggestions.  I suggest people consider the “not to-do’s” in their personal life as well…as those things can directly impact their time and energy for priorities at work.

    What saps your energy?  

    I have a personal dashboard for my key actions (both do’s and don’ts), and I earn points for not doing things like drinking diet-Coke (a long time habit), not hitting sweets for a whole day, and not being late to any meetings.

    Achieving my “not to-do’s” keeps me charged and confident in attacking the “to-do’s!”  70 days without a diet-Coke, and I am pumped! (and I no longer crash mid-afternoon)

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      David Allen has a great site with a lot of useful information.

      http://www.davidco.com/

      jim

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You might take a look at Joe’s Goals. It is a dashboard-type application that anyone can use for this kind of thing.

  • http://www.inteliwise.com VirtualAgents

    It helps me focus on the goals I really want to complete and
    to prioritize. In life is a healthy turned-out thing to do first by putting on
    my to-do-list by writing down my goals, that is “real ambition”. Thanks .

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve a not-to-do list for a long time now.  It contains things like;
    Do not look at social media at anytime during the work day.
    Do not be tempted to look at email outside of your assigned time to look at email.
    Do not let people trap you into a long phone call that kills a huge chunk of your day.
    Do not let an unexpected office visitor take up a chunk of time and get you off track.

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  • http://twitter.com/randy_walton Randy Walton

    Great article. I recently started using a tool to help me with the accountability around my do and do not list stuff. It’s been a life changer in helping provide simple and really effective prompting and shared accountability. You might like checking it out. http://www.irunurun.com

    It’s free and I think will continue to be a free service.

  • http://twitter.com/jamespinnick7 James Pinnick

    Michael,
    You are so right on your post, especially at the end…
    If you don’t periodically take a machete to your to-do list, it will eventually grow over everything and strangle you!

    My list keeps growing but I can’t seem to apply how to seperate the to do and the not to do. How do you specify which is which? I understand it’s more priority and delegating, but its hard to push harder and do more when its not really my time or job to do it. If that makes any sense!

    James-

    Author
    The Last Seven Pages
    http://www.jamespinnick.com/

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been trying to implement this for a while, to varying degrees of success.  One thing that is helping is advice from Leo Babuta.   I don’t remember the exact article, but he suggests removing one thing at a time.  It keeps me from being overwhelmed from the huge list I have of things that I do that I probably shouldn’t.

    Of course, there’s a lot to be said for just ripping the band-aid off in one swift motion…

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  • Tamara Vann

    This is some of the best advice I’ve seen in a long time. Leaders have to focus on what’s important to succeed. That not-to-list really calls for some self-analysis. Businesses as a whole could benefit from doing the same in regard to customer service. Focus on what’s important – as this video http://www.upyourservice.com/video-theater/how-do-you-build-and-sustain-a-superior-service-culture – points out and let the rest take care of itself.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    – opening and answering my email early in the morning when I get up.
    – answering calls while driving

  • Melissa Mashburn ~ Mel’s World

    Great stuff here Michael, thanks so much for continuously providing quality content…you have no idea how much of an impact you are making!

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Michael, this was a good post for me to read, because I’m getting to the point in my job where I can’t take on any more tasks, and I need to start trimming the tasks that I’m doing.  Thanks for the post.

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  • http://twitter.com/CheapLoveCarrie Carrie Starr

    I am a college professor getting ready for the new school year and have found making a “not to-do list” very helpful.  Every year I become over-committed and stretched to the point of exhaustion by mid-semester. There are some clear patterns that put me into this state of “spread too thin.”  Making a not to-do list has helped me think through the things I need to say “no” to to keep my priorities straight.

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  • sandro

    Great! This is the next step for me after I read the book ”
    When God Wasn’t Watching, the Devil Created Busines” which really changed my life! (http://lidpublishing.com/images/When-God-Wasnt-Watching-AI.pdf) A not to do List would be useful, more than taht, lifechanging. I`m gonna start with it today let´s see what happens!

  • June Wilson

    Hi Michael, I was curious for insight on why you use Nozbie for to-do lists and not Evernote?  I keep hearing I can manage to-do lists in Evernote (I just started using Evernote this week) but don’t want to go a mile in that direction if it’s best or better to use something like Nozbie for multiple to-do lists.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you can use Evernote if your needs are simple. However, it doesn’t provide a mechanism for due dates, which is something I really need. Having said that, plenty of people use Evernote for task management.

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  • http://checkmatesystem.com Mary

    This is the first thing I found after giving up googling “is there an app that will pop up a window telling you what you should be doing no matter what website you click on?” 

    bwaaa-haaaa-haaa!

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  • http://www.enmast.com/ Brad Farris

    One other great source of not-to-do items is your team. I always ask team members “What am I doing that you should be doing.” Then if I agree, move the task to them and they are in charge of it. This lets me keep growing and learning (and keeps them growing and learning too).

  • http://twitter.com/SonjasInk Sonja Gross

    Excellent post.

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  • Michelle

    Very timely post!  Soon after I transferred to a new position, I was asked to fill in for someone else while she was on vacation because I was the only other person certified to do her job.  And honestly, I enjoyed doing her job.  But I was trying to do my job at the same time and could not say no.  Well, she went on another leave of absence a few weeks later, but this time I was much more prepared and able to say no.  I didn’t necessarily have a “do not do” list, but rather a priority list where items with lower priority don’t get done today, and tasks that aren’t due for another week or two are postponed. 

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  • SNellis

    Timely…I have a meeting with my rep on our Executive Leadership Team tonight and their concern over my doing too much and facing burnout is certain to be a topic. Circumstances have caused my ministry responsibilities to change (read – things added, smaller things removed) three times in the past 9 months. I know I’m doing too much but need to learn how to stop. Anyone have a resource you’d recommend?

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    Love it. I will be there one day. I have a great growing team that is taking more of my “not do” list. I look forward to the day I can focus exclusively on my strengths.

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  • http://twitter.com/DavidOJonesTN David O Jones

    Great message. I have seen too many really productive people burn out by taking on too much. Having a NOT-TO-DO list would surely have helped them.

  • NV Hadebe

    Really important for people, especially those who want to be successful, to understand that channeling your energy on the projects or task given to you will be the fuel to your vehicle to that promotion you rightly deserve. A very good article. I hope the way it was written and intended to be read will help you understand the importance of having your work schedule flexible, not for unnecessary time consuming tasks that wont let you be at your best, but for being available when it matters.

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  • Hugh

    I used to use the old BenFranklin list…left column labelled “Gotta Do,” right column labelled, :Don’t Gotta Do.” Really powerful way to back up the answer “NO! when someone wants to encroach on your life.